MANSFIELD (CBSDFW.COM) – At age 22, Leah Duncan of Mansfield said that she was athletic and looking forward to the future. But then, her world changed. “I was having night sweats. I was sick all the time. I had a rash all over my body. And none of the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me,” Duncan recalled.
She was eventually diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
Duncan started to wear bracelets which declared that she was “fighting with a purpose.” That purpose, she believed, was to one day be the mother of a child. “When I found out I had cancer, I was extremely worried it wasn’t a possibility,” Duncan said.
Doctors state that women treated for cancer before turning 35 years old are at risk for infertility and early menopause. But oncologist Dr. Scott Fleischauer said that Duncan had options and needed to see a fertility specialist. “Someone her age, we do everything we can to ensure the fertility is maximized,” the doctor said.
Duncan was placed on what could be called a temporary menopause. “Dr. Fleischauer and the fertility doctor talked about a different shot that I could take that basically kind of shut down my ovaries,” Duncan explained, “and so I took the shot every single month.”
Duncan also traveled to New York to see a fertility doctor who could freeze her eggs.
This strategy for increasing the chances of pregnancy post-cancer are part of a trend which doctors are seeing in similar patients. It is a shift toward seeing life, not death, in the face of cancer.
“It was a very aggressive treatment,” Duncan said. “I had four different types of chemo that I received.”
But through it all, just one month after Duncan’s cancer went into remission, she got pregnant. “It was a scary time,” she recalled, “but it was very exciting because, during that time, I couldn’t be retested for cancer either.”
And, Duncan added, “I ended up not having to use the fertility treatment at all. It was kind of a shock.” Without any special treatment, Duncan gave birth to a baby boy. “I named him Jayce, which means ‘healer’ and ‘chosen by God.'”
Now, both mom and her 18-month-old son are happy and healthy. Duncan’s story is one that her doctor thinks could benefit so many people in similar situations. “I think that’s the best insurance you could have in being able to have a child,” Dr. Fleischauer said.
“When I gave birth to my son, it was the best day in my life, for sure,” Duncan said. “It was very emotional. It was kind of like I fought cancer to get to this moment.”
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